Obviously, every team at the World Juniors would love to run the table and go 7-0, but sometimes a little adversity can help fuel a team to a gold medal.
The outdoor loss to the USA on December 29th served as a reminder to Team Canada that no matter how fragile the opposition appears to be if you take as much as one period off, it can cost you big time at a tournament as unpredictable as the World Juniors.
That loss to the Americans didn’t end up costing them much as they still wrapped up first place in the group and although it sounds weird, I think losing that game might have been a good thing. When you look at how they responded the next night against Denmark, it appeared that the loss kind of woke them up to some extent.
Today, Canada’s quest for a gold medal will be kicked into high gear as they’ll take on Switzerland in the quarterfinals.
The Swiss only had one win during the four-game round robin and that came on the opening day of the tournament when they defeated Team Belarus, who’s now off to the relegation round.
Following a tight 3-2 win over Belarus, Switzerland was outscored 18-7 in their final three games which were losses to Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.
There’s no doubt that the Swiss don’t have the skill on their roster to compete with Canada and when asked about it the other day, their Head Coach Christian Wohlwend was brutally honest, saying, “They’re faster, they’re bigger, they’re stronger, they can shoot better, they can pass better, they can do everything better.”
With an average age of 18.73 years old, this is the youngest team Switzerland has iced in the last five years, so the struggles are understandable.
Despite the poor results, there are some skilled offensive players on this team that shouldn’t be ignored. Philipp Kurashev could be a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and has produced some offence so far at this year’s tournament with two goals and two assists. Marco Miranda is another name to watch today. The undrafted 19-year-old has four points in four games this year as well. He’s a big forward who’s very offensive minded, he could have an impact tonight as well.
KEYS TO A CANADIAN WIN
- These are going to be very similar to the keys against Denmark, but it worked! They need to score early. The longer you let the score linger at 0-0, the more hope and momentum you give Switzerland.
- Avoid the bulletin board material. My best guess is that Swiss Head Coach Christian Wohlwend is trying to downplay his team in hopes that Canada will start to look past today’s game. Dominic Ducharme will need to make sure Canada doesn’t lose focus.
- Keep it five-on-five. It’s going to be a key for every game going forward because we saw how quickly Canada can come unraveled with poor discipline. Stay out of the box and simply focus on beating Switzerland while the game is even strength.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Michael McLeod was one of the few returning Canadian forwards at this year’s tournament and I was expecting him to be one of the team’s go-to goal scorers.
He was fairly quiet through the first three games and finally got his first goal of the tournament in the 8-0 route of Denmark. Things change once you get to the elimination games though. Every play and every bounce is magnified that much more. Once you hit the new year, you need your best players to stand out.
McLeod has produced well this year with Mississauga (OHL) with 8 goals in just 11 games. He has a knack for scoring goals and he’s proven that. I think we might see him be one of the most impactful Canadians as we progress through the medal round, watch for that to start today.